Firuza Abdurakhimova

Artistic director and conductor of the Sogdiana chamber orchestra of Uzbek folk instruments and Professor at the State Conservatory.

The processes of integration and cultural interaction in the modern world have defined the main focus of the activities of the Uzbek chamber orchestra of traditional instruments Sogdiana established in 1991. In 1999, I asked the British Council to help us find a British ensemble that we could perform with on the same stage. I vividly remember Michael Moore’s positive interest – he was the Director of the British Council, Uzbekistan at the time – and also how the team’s understanding of the significance of cooperation between Uzbek and British musicians paved the way for our active work in this direction.    

At once I received a large pile of records made by Scottish and English bands and one of these in particular attracted me with its bright melodic language, unusual harmonies and richness of its timbres. It was a Scottish folk rock band The Iron Horse. Wasting no time, British Council staff helped us find the band and get in touch with its musicians. Some time later, Gavin Marwick, one of Iron Horse’s leading musicians arrived in Tashkent. Together we selected several Scottish melodies for notation and arrangement and offered the band a range of Uzbek melodies which Gavin took with him. A period of serious cooperation ensued and we worked together, thousands of kilometers apart with the British Council providing the necessary connection.      

In late February 2002 we welcomed The Iron Horse in Tashkent together with Annie Grace, a well-known singer who also played Scottish bagpipes and smallpipes. Over ten days we worked full time in the studio converting all the work we had done together into music. We studied how folk and rock music can work together and our British colleagues familiarised themselves with the specific features of Uzbek musical performance. We called our joint project Interfolk. Its first performance took place in Samarkand on 7 March 2002. Everything was new for our audience: the stage hosted representatives of very different musical cultures playing different instruments; even musicians’ appearances and playing styles were different. Nevertheless, when waves of sounds produced simultaneously by the nay, koshnay, dutar, bagpipes, old viola, rubab and percussive instruments reached the audience, they froze... It was Her Majesty's Music which knows no national no territorial borders; music which united all of us, musicians and audience alike.   

On the next day we performed at the Turkestan concert hall in Tashkent. The music hall was full; many people were standing. It was a real triumph of true music. Annie Grace won everyone's heart with her Lullaby and her brilliant command of the bagpipe. Gavin composed a special piece for the project which he called Northern Сross Rising, and which we still play on stage to our audience’s delight. Everybody was ecstatic about the way the British musicians interpreted and performed Uzbek music and the performance by Sevara Nazarkhan and Ravshan Namazov, our famous singers accompanied by the international orchestra, was a huge success.

Once again I want to reiterate an important point: without the help of the British Council and an active support of all is staff starting from the then CEO Martin Davidson, The Interfolk project would have not have happened. The cooperation between the Sogdiana orchestra and The Iron Horse folk rock band proved that joint efforts can generate new cultural phenomena which in turn can unite people of the Earth in the name of goodness.     

I would like to use this opportunity to thank The British Council on behalf of our orchestra for all the efforts invested in the development of friendly relations between the UK and Uzbekistan and to wish its team all the best on the occasion of the British Council’s 20th anniversary in Uzbekistan! We wish you all good health and further achievements!